VA chief stresses leadership for e-records

New Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has said he would work with the Defense Department and the Joint Executive Council to make sure the VA and DOD can share their medical records by September.

Shinseki stressed the need for a single electronic medical record that follows a veteran from military to civilian life. His remarks came during a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Feb. 4. Shinseki said he has met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and they agreed to lead the next few meetings of the JEC, a group of officials from both departments to sustain the momentum toward the goal of interoperable health records.

“If it’s going to happen any faster, it’s going to take leadership. It’s not a technical issue,” Shinseki said.

The VA has said it and DOD already share some medical information, including medication history and lab results, through their Bidirectional Health Information Exchange.

In addition to medical records, Shinseki said he wants the departments also to be able to share personal information and move to an electronic benefits claims system to help speed up the disability benefits application process and reduce the claims backlog. The VA is planning to hire 1,100 more staff members this year to handle the paper-intensive disability claims process, he said.

Shinseki also said he would perform a top-down review of the department’s needs and priorities and in the near term propose a “credible and adequate” budget for 2010. The Government Accountability Office has said the VA continues to underestimate the budget needs for veterans’ health care.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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